Red Bean Jam (Anko)

It’s been awhile since the last post and I’ve been struggling to find the time between testing different recipes and worklife to find a way to post a recipe that’s worth sharing.

So rather than posting an actual dessert/snack item, I decided to post a recipe that can be used as a building block in many desserts.

This recipe’s origin is from Japan where anko (red bean jam) can be commonly found in many of their traditional desserts and have even found their way into the western desserts there (and around the world).

I absolutely love Japan but have never been fond of beans which meant I struggled to love many of the more traditional desserts there where beans were so ingrained in their culture as a filling.

To me, red bean jam just sounds… well, it sounds downright gross. Correction. Sounded gross.
The ones I had tried in their commercial products whilst in Japan were really either too sweet or too dry and pastey, neither of which appealed to me. But those smallbatch anko from the little traditional shops stood out and sparked my love for red bean sweets.

See, I’m more of a dark chocolate kind of person. I have a massive sweet tooth but I hate candy. I love chocolate but milk chocolate is something I’ll stomach in moderation (unless it’s in a cookie or ice cream or cake). I’m essentially a confusing person. So anything overly sugary isn’t my cup of tea. (And I love my tea straight up without sugar or milk. Unless it’s bubble tea, where I love milk tea with sugar. See what I mean? Confusing) As such sickly sweet pastes and jams were never my thing. And that’s the joy of making your own jams, you get to control the amount of sugar you put in and tweak it to your liking.


​Back to red beans and all their deliciousness. It’s a very simple product, but with a few selective ingredients you can turn something so simple into something so addictively good and versatile.

By the end of this recipe, you are left with a pot of fragrant sweet jam with a touch of savouryness not unsimilar to the balance between sweet and savoury in salted caramel products.

All you need is time, and tender loving care.

Almost 2 hours of attention and care, but it’s worth it. You have been warned.

Chunky Red Bean Jam Recipe (Tsubu An)


¾ cup dried adzuki beans

Cold water

¾ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon light-colored soy sauce


Rinse your dried adzuki beans in a strainer to get rid of all impurities and place it into a 3-quart sized pot along with 2.5 cups of water. Bring the beans and water to a boil over medium heat and leave it on a light simmer for 8 mins.

The water will turn slightly red after 8 minutes. Drain the beans and toss the water away. This will help remove the mustiness of the beans and astringency.

Rinse the pot and remove any scum that may have cling to the side of the pot.

Return the beans to the pot and add 3 cups of water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and maintain the simmer. Do not cover the pot as we want to slowly allow the water to evaporate.

Boil and reduce until the water barely covers the beans (this should take approximately 30 minutes). During these 30 minutes, slowly remove any scum/froth and loose skin that have accumulated on the surface with a spoon.

Add 1/2 cup of cold water to the pot of beans every 15 mins and continue to boil for the next 35-40 minutes until the beans are tender enough to give way when you pinch with your fingers. All this while constantly removing the froth and accumulated scum.

By now the beans should have been boiling a totally of nearly 1hr and 15 mins since the start of this recipe.

Add the white sugar and simmer for 20 minutes. The mixture should look less cloudy and start becoming darker in colour.  Stir gently occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking to the base of the pot.

Add the brown sugar and stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Th mixture will now start to take on a glossy look and thicken. When you use a spoon to draw a line in the pot, you should be able to see the base of the pot for a few moments.

Add the salt and soy sauce and you are done!

Stir the jam as much as you want to create more of paste. The chunkyness of the jam is left entirely to your preference.

Want it chunkier? Be gentle when stirring the mixture.

Want a less chunky jam? Give it more of afire with a wooden spoon smooshing some of the beans as you go

Want a clean smooth paste? Dunk it all into a blender and blend away!

You can store the mixture in a container the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. If storing in the freezer, don’t forget to portion it out so you don’t have to defrost the whole batch. When you want some red bean jam, simply chuck it in the microwave to heat up.

Ideas on how to use the jam:

  • Use it as a filling in a bun just like I did
  • Whip up a matcha dessert and add some red beans to it. Matcha and red beans go really well together.
  • Use it as a topping on some vanilla ice cream.
  • Use it as you would normally use fruit jam. Get creative and have some fun with it.
  • Eat it straight up. You know you want to. I know I do. 😉


The salt will help mellow the sweetness of the paste whilst the soy sauce will bring a slight savoury note to the jam. Don’t worry if you don’t have soy sauce at home, just substitute with 1/2 a tsp of salt.

Be sure to always taste before adding the salt! You can always add more salt but you can’t remove it. Depending on what salt you use, the intensity of the saltiness will be different. So it’s best to be cautious and add a little at a time.


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